“A Look Back in Time”



BY: Robert Beanblossom

Photo attributes to: National Forests of North Carolina Historic Photographs, D.H. Ramsey Library, Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville, 28804


The original visitor center at the Cradle of Forestry in America was destroyed by a fire on the night of April 17, 1985. The building then valued at $500,000 was a total loss.  Although the exact cause of the blaze was never determined, it was thought the fire was a result of an electrical malfunction.  The center first opened in 1965.

Among the priceless antiques and documents lost were many of the Biltmore Forest School archives and the original desk used by Gifford Pinchot, the first trained American forester.

Congress designated the site in 1968 to honor Gifford Pinchot and Dr. Carl Schenck, early day pioneer foresters, both of whom were responsible for establishing the profession of forestry in the United States.  Pinchot was first hired by George Washington Vanderbilt of Biltmore fame to manage his lands in 1892. During his brief tenure, Pinchot wrote the first scientific forest management plan ever implemented in this country.  In turn, his successor, Dr. Carl Schenck opened the first forestry school in the nation on September 1, 1898.

The present-day Discovery Center was completed and opened to the public in 1988.